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I'm on a mission to force Arizona's Superintendent of Public
Instruction, John Huppenthal, out of office in November. In addition to the fact that he is not actually qualified for the job (he doesn't have any education degrees, and he has never been a teacher), he is a big advocate of school vouchers, which would siphon even more money from the public schools in Arizona, already some of the worst-funded schools in the nation.
Arizona is one of 12 states where the head of education is an elected position, which means that the average citizen can actually have a say in who runs the department (other states either have the position filled by the board of education, or by appointment by the governor).
School vouchers have been in use in this country (off and on) since 1869, and were used heavily in the South during the 1960's as a way to perpetuate segregation. Thanks to a 2002 Supreme Court case, they have become popular again. As of today, there are 300,000 K-12 students who are paying for PRIVATE education with our tax dollars.
When the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case was settled in 2002, the net result is that 96% of the students who were shifted out of Cleveland's failing school system wound up in religiously affiliated schools, who are tax exempt. If you don't think that your tax dollars should be used to fund religious schools, you'll be interested to know that the combined value of all church properties in America is $141 billion, and their combined annual income is at least $22 billion a year - all tax exempt.
Churches have long been tax exempt in America, and a 1970 Supreme Court case reaffirmed that status. The State grants tax exempt status to churches and other non profit organization because it "considers these groups as beneficial and stabilizing influences in community life and finds this classification useful, desirable, and in the public interest. Qualification for tax exemption is not perpetual or immutable; some tax-exempt groups lose that status when their activities take them outside the classification and new entities can come into being and qualify for exemption."
As Schmidt always says, "follow the money", and John Huppenthal is a prime example of that.
The group that would benefit most from pubic vouchers is The Alliance for School Choice, which is a tax exempt organization
. They contributed $63,000 to Huppethal's campaign in 2010, and may have affected other superintendent races as well. The first person to head the organization was the lawyer who won the Zelman v. Simmons case, and he subsequently would up working for the ultra-conservative Goldwater Group in Phoenix, which is also a tax exempt organization.
The Goldwater Institute advances the ALEC agenda and other legislation through maintaining regular contact with Arizona legislators, and the Koch brothers like it a lot. From 2008 to 2011, the Koch-connected Donors Capital Fund
to the Goldwater Institute, a substantial portion of revenue. In 2010, it gave $562,000
to the Goldwater Institute, which constituted more than 17 percent of revenues that year. In 2009, the Donors Capital Fund gift of $665,462
constituted 26 percent of the Institute’s revenues. In 2008, it donated $360,000
, or 12% of the Institute's revenue for that year.
If you're not sure if your state is using tax vouchers to fund private schools, I'd highly recommend
that you do a little research on the topic. If you'd like to read a LOT about this topic, read "Reign of Error", by Diane Ravitch: